Friday, September 21, 2007

Books Tag

In response to a tag from flowerville...

I did this tag when I had started the blog (I can't find the link now, may be it disappeared?) but since I have read so much (by my own standards of course) in the last couple of years I thought I will put an updated list of favourite books.

Total number of books owned

Not many actually. I have this nice habit of buying a book only when I have read at least of few of those which I bought earlier. Still I had around 300 books in Bangalore when I came here. I am a little worried about their fate now but I think I will be going back to India sometime soon (not to take care of the books of course!!). I haven't bought too many books here. May be around 20. There is a nice little library just next to where I live and it is quite good. Even if they don't have something I am looking for (Pedro Paramo, Montano's Malady two books on top of my current to-read list) they always have plenty of other books to read.

Last book bought

That was quite long time back. It was the picture book Isabelle Huppert: A Woman of Many Faces. I am far from a star-struck movie-lover but she is different. The book is good but it could have been better. I was actually intrigued by the introductions written by Elfriede Jelinek, Susan Sontag and Serge Toubiana but I found them wanting, rehearsing the same old ideas if not resorting to downright cliches. I had written about the book here.

Last book read

Readers of the blog already know. I generally always write about the books I am reading. All Souls by Javier Marias was a hugely entertaining read. I am also almost done with Dark Back of Time which is its "sequel" and a (slightly) bizarre fictional commentary on the earlier book. I love these books with a mandarin sensibility and a geeky sense of humour. These two books fit that type very well. (This is also one of the reasons why I love Nabokov who I think is one of Marias' idols too.)

I am also in the middle of Thomas Bernhard's Extinction which is another complete riot full of "relentless word massacre" on every page (as Kubla calls it). There is a wonderful portrait of Ingeborg Bachmann in the book too. Good to see he admires somone too. Come to think of it, he admires Wittgenstein, his nephew and Glenn Gould too. I will write about in detail later.

Five books that mean a lot to you

In contrast to the last tag I will limit myself to books I have read recently (in the last one year or so). So no Proust, no Kafka and none of the great Russian Masters. No Don Quixote, No Speak, Memory either.

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil: I have still not been able to get to the drafts and fragments section but the 1200 pages before that were already more than I could handle. This is the book which redeemed (at least for me) that much-abused word called "soul" (I think the German word will be geist which means spirit). There are also deep discussions about the scientific worldview, materialism, sexual desire, consciousness and what it means to live in the "modern" world. This book will alter the way you think about these things and more.

Collected works of Heinrich von Kleist & Georg Buchner: Two masters from Germany with really dark and fierce imagination and very modern sensibilities. I particularly liked Michael Kohlhaas, The Marquise of O and The Earthquake in Chile by Kleist and Lenz and Woyzeck by Buchner.

The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald: Another book of thoughtful melancholy and mourning. A breathtaking meditation on Death and Destruction as a law of nature.

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard: Another master from Austria. An utterly original prose stylist with an equally unique voice and sensibility.

Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo: Too many gloomy Germans? This is a gloomy book too but is also hysterically funny. More intellectual version of Woody Allen perhaps.

The Melancholy of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Still in Central Europe, this time in modern Hungary. I guess it is too much melancholy on my list but with a title like this the book is already a classic. The resistance in the title is the resistance against decay and dissolution, in other words the resistance agaisnt the law of nature. That's why it is melancholy of resistance.

All the people on my sidebar and people who comment on the blog - consider yourself tagged. If you have done the tag before consider updating it with your recent reads.


Space Bar said...

actually, this is one tag i'd be happy to do! :D

antonia said...

oh this was a fast reply. always interesting what goes on in other people's shelves & minds.

Alok said...

space bar: would love to see your list.

antonia: fast reply... yeah lazy friday here.

Szerelem said...

Nice tag!

Actually my last post was on the latest book I'm reading but I'm still tempted to do the tag :D

jyothsnaynm said...

Mr Zembla
neat scotch once again!
I have begun my masterpiece on Ant's tag, will take one more day to get displayed at the Graffiti Board.I can see a few common things over here-on ur post, thus influencing me to be a bit wicked (I need to create some differentiation)
Ant, thank you n your friend.Nice stuff
I feel Mr Zembla should kickstart one on Movies
would love to be part of it.

jyothsnay said...

a few typos over there in my first comment.stressed out fingers to be blamed for that triflish move.
at times, one has to enjoy the license to go full monty :))))
*newly coined phrase

KUBLA KHAN said...

alok....i like all the books on your list. war&war is a disappointment. you agree?

Szerelem said...

tag done!

Alok said...

szerlem, jyothsna, kubla: it was great to see your choices and read your thoughts.

kubla, I agree it wasn't as good as Melancholy. It started off promisingly and in great style but the historical digressions were tedious to read.